Rockies advance through NorthWood

WARSAW — On Monday, Plymouth’s Rockies earned a reprisal over an NLC foe.
At Wednesday’s Warsaw Sectional semifinal, they backed up a win.
Cesar Aguilar notched two goals for Plymouth, and the Rockies defense combined for the blank sheet in a 2-0 win over conference-rival NorthWood.
Plymouth now advances to get another crack at host Warsaw at the tournament championship Saturday at 2 p.m. following the Tigers’ come-from-behind 4-3 win over Culver Military Academy earlier Wednesday evening.
“We beat NorthWood the first time, and it’s hard to be able to beat a team twice in a row,” said Plymouth boys soccer coach Josh Martin. “My hat’s off to them because they played a terrific game — they defended better, they put a ton more pressure on our net than they did in the first game. They brought a real A game against us tonight. Thankfully, we rose to the challenge, too.”
Aguilar scored both Plymouth goals after notching another two with an assist in the Rockies’ 3-1 quarterfinal win over Wawasee Monday night.
He put Plymouth on the scoreboard with a penalty kick in the 22nd minute after Blake Milliser was fouled in the NorthWood box, and he gave his team some insurance in the 65th minute when he back-kicked a Gonzalo Figueroa pass into the corner of the NorthWood net in a highlight reel-worthy play that all but put Plymouth out of reach.
“That whole series was pretty nice,” said Martin of Aguilar’s insurance score. “It started with great passing out of the midfield. Another guy that’s really helped us out, Gonzalo Figueroa, really faked a guy out at the top of the box and served a really nice ball in there to Cesar, and that finish — back to the goal, he lets the ball come behind him, and he scoops it. Those are once-in-a-lifetime kinds of goals, and that was really a slick finish. And he knew exactly what he was doing; it wasn’t an accident.”
The game was nip-tuck most of the way with Plymouth registering just two more shots on goal than the Panthers. But it was those two shots that wound up making the difference.
After Aguiliar’s first-half goal in the two teams’ first meeting a week ago, Dennyz Barahona tied it up in the 42nd minute before Clay Marshall’s game-winner on an Aguilar assist in the 62nd minute, and Dennyz and Brandon Barahona both looked dangerous again Wednesday night.
But the Plymouth backfield didn’t break, and goalkeeper Sam Stone finished with 10 saves in the shutout, including a par of quality deflections on two rockets from Brandon Barahona in the 44th and 62nd minutes.
“We know that Sam has got good goalkeeping all around. He had to come in tonight, and he didn’t miss a beat. He kept up the intensity, helped the defense stay marked up back there, and they put a couple of real quality shots back there off the frame,” said Martin.
“We were really happy with our defense all around. I have to throw a shout-out to Trevor Neidlinger, who swept for us. Our center backs put real good pressure on them, and when they got beat Trevor was back there cleaning up a lot of messes for us tonight, and I think he took a lot of pressure off the goalkeeper too.”
Plymouth advances to play defending semistate champion Warsaw in the title game Saturday. The two teams were locked in a scoreless stalemate at halftime in their first meeting back on Aug. 29 — which Warsaw eventually won 3-0 — and the Tigers looked vulnerable again in the early game Wednesday, falling behind 3-0 to Culver Military at the half before rallying with four goals in the final 21 minutes for the victory and a championship berth opposite Plymouth.
“We played them tough for 50 minutes the last time we played them, and then we kind of gave up a goal that we weren’t real happy with and everything kind of crumbled,” said Martin of his team’s first game with Warsaw. “We were playing a completely different formation back then. We kind of changed things up to something we’re a little bit more comfortable with. They’re stout defensively, but they gave up three goals tonight and got themselves in a hole so we know we can come out and we can compete with them.”
At Warsaw
First half
P – Cesar Aguilar (PK), 22nd minute
Second half:
P – Cesar Aguilar (Gonzalo Figueroa, 65th minute
Shots on Goal: Plymouth 12, Northwood 10
Saves: Plymouth (Sam Stone) 10, Northwood 10
Record: Plymouth 6-10-2
First half
C — Nicholas Bissonnette unassisted, 17th minute
C — Leonardo Rodriguez unassisted, 33rd minute
Second half
C — Dominic Puzevic, PK, 53rd minute
W — Brad O’Cock, unassisted, 59th minute
W — Stephen Kolbe unassisted, 64th minute
W — Sam Allbritten from Manuel Rodriguez, 75th minute
W — Allbritten, unassisted, 78th minute
Records: Warsaw 11-2-5, Culver Academy 8-7-2